Keeping your Kids Socially Safe Online

Aug 02, 2011

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Monitoring and Guiding Kids’ Use of Social Media

Nowadays, if you’ve got kids old enough to walk and talk, you’ve got kids old enough to use the Internet and they’re probably better at it than you are. Modern kids grow up with technology interwoven into most major aspects of their lives - entertainment, education, and yes, even social relationships. It used to be easy to meet your child’s friends (and their parents) when they lived across the street, but what do you do when they live halfway across the world or your child doesn’t even know them by their real name? There are a few common-sense ways to make sure that your child’s online social interactions are building safe, respectful friendships and not getting them into trouble, and fortunately, many of the same old rules we learned as children still apply.

Don’t Talk to Strangers: Sites like Facebook are for social networking, meaning that most of the people your child is meeting will be real-life friends and friends of real-life friends. Teach your kids to be very cautious about who they “friend - you can even scan their “friends list to see notations of how many “mutual friends each person shares with your child - if the person they are friending doesn’t know any of their other friends, talk to your child about who that person is and how your child met them. Your child’s online friends should be just like your their real-world friends - they should be willing to let you “meet them.

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice...: Make sure your kids understand that their online speech is just as real and lasting as anything they would say to someone in person. Some kids will post comments online that they would never say to a person’s face, because of the greater feeling of anonymity. Explain to your children that what they write online is sometimes even more permanent than what they say out loud, because other people can easily copy and “repeat it.

Hold Hands When Crossing the Street: Ideally, young children’s initial online activity should be at the family computer, with a parent by their side. Just as you spend time teaching your child to navigate the real world safely, you, as a modern parent, must also spend time teaching your child to navigate the digital world safely. Set online safety rules like “Don’t give your personal information and “Don’t click on offers for FREE stuff and make sure your child can repeat these rules, just like you’d watch them to see that they’ve learned to look both ways before crossing.

Listen to the Babysitter: Internet monitoring programs like NetNanny will allow you to set all sorts of parental filters for your children’s Internet access, as well as giving you detailed reports of how and when your child is accessing social media (facebook, twitter, etc.). To prevent your kids trying to find ways around the filters, it helps if they understand that the program is like an online babysitter - it’s there to enforce the rules the parents set while the parents are away, and it’s there to help the child while they are still learning to “babysit themselves. Your kids should know that they can come talk to you about any “rules (filters) you have set and why.

The modern child’s life may be more technology-geared than most parents are comfortable with, but with good communication, clear boundaries, and a set of common-sense rules, you can teach your child to navigate the online world as safely and successfully as the real world. Still have questions about your kids and social media? For more tips and tricks send me a note at www.callnerds.com/andrea